After almost a quarter century of success as a songwriter and recording artist with 32 No. 1 songs, 10 Dove Awards, three American Songwriter Awards, three books published and millions of albums sold, Twila Paris could choose to take a break. Perhaps retire with her husband to a mountain cabin somewhere and do nothing all day but watch their son, J.P., and the garden grow. But when God keeps the door open to new opportunities, fresh new songs and unprecedented worship experiences, there's nothing else to do but step through and be faithful with what God has given. After all, that's what faithfulness is, walking through the doors God opens for you.
In August of 2005, Twila Paris released her 19th album—and her first-ever live recording—He Is Exalted: Live Worship, her first under a new contract with Integrity Music. A big door, indeed, but one she was excited to step through. "The folks at Integrity have long been pioneers in promoting and providing worship music for the Body of Christ," Twila says of the new partnership. "Because they strive to live out the definition of their name, I'm honored to work alongside them."
Don Moen, president of Integrity Label Group and executive producer of Twila's new project, echoes her sentiments: "Twila Paris is a Christian music treasure. She has written and performed some of our generation's most important worship songs, and we are honored that she is now recording for Integrity, and as her friend, I am personally thrilled to be working with her."
When talk of the first album began, everyone was convinced that it was time to capture Twila's passion for worship live. Everyone but Twila herself.
"Worship has always been an integral part of my concerts," Twila says, "even before I recorded my first album at the age of 19, I led a little worship band. So it's always been important to me to cultivate a worshipful atmosphere, to inspire worship as life, as part of everything we do. Still, I'd never recorded anything that allowed you to feel that live worship event atmosphere, and I wasn't sure going in that we could capture that, but it's amazing to listen now and hear it."
Produced by David Hamilton (Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, FFH) He Is Exalted: Live Worship pulses with an energy and excitement often experienced only at large corporate gatherings. It is a compelling feast of praise—eight new songs, two unique interpretations of already familiar worship favorites and two updated Twila Paris classics—that builds into a corporate and yet intensely personal worship encounter with God. With distinctively crystal production and engaging, heartfelt delivery, these songs explore, and more importantly, declare the authority, lordship and holiness of God.
"Lifted Higher," the album's contagious opener, sets the tone for the entire effort. "There's not necessarily a 'story behind the song' and it's not taken from one specific scripture," Twila says. "It's just a very honest 'from the heart' moment of worship that happened as I was driving the car. Very simple, very singable and heartfelt."
The seven new songs that follow—"Hosanna," "All Things Work Together," "Messiah," "Enter In," "You Are Holy," "We Have Seen Your Glory" and "Hold Me Close"—are as powerful and personal as anything Twila has ever written. Like many other songs Twila has written, these originals will wind their way into the Church and into the heart of believers worldwide in the coming years.
But before we start looking toward the future, it can be a good thing, when possible, to reinvent the past. He Is Exalted: Live Worship does just thatwith two re-envisioned recordings of Twila classics, "God Is In Control" (1995's Dove winner for "Song of the Year") and "He Is Exalted." New arrangements make these songs as timeless as the day they were written—once a great song, always a great song, especially when it comes to songs of worship.
"Our intention was to give them a new context for a new time," Twila says. "I was always surprised, from the very beginning, to hear that ‘God Is In Control' was sung in corporate worship. The fact that it has been kind of takes the limits off what some people consider a worship song. We reworked the bridge so it lends itself more to corporate worship."
Although "God Is In Control" was written more than 10 years ago, Twila believes the message of the song may be even more timely today. "Almost every time I turn on the news, I need to be reminded that God is our foundation and that we can trust in Him and rest in Him, to turn our gaze to Him, where it should always be. I can't remember a time when I needed to know that more."
To round out the album, Twila opted to record two songs written by other worship leaders, Robin Mark's "Days of Elijah" and Lenny LeBlanc's "We All Bow Down." Classic hymns the exception, Twila had never recorded songs that were not her own. "It was a new thing for me, but because we wanted this album to be more of a corporate experience, I felt it was good to include songs that were a little bit familiar. I already knew ‘We All Bow Down,' and even though ‘Days of Elijah' was new to me, it was so powerful that I thought immediately, ‘Yeah, if I were leading worship, I would choose this song.'"
The resulting intimacy and energy of He Is Exalted is something that could only be realized in a live setting. Each song captivates, drawing listeners away from the cares of this world. And at the same, this one-of-a-kind project offers vibrant, new songs for corporate expression, appropriate for traditional, blended and even more modern worship settings. For Twila Paris, who has carved out a place at the forefront of contemporary worship, He Is Exalted: Live Worship is a wonderful and personal reflection of a new season of growth, not only as an artist but also as a worshiper.
"When God calls us to do something, even if we enter a new season in our lives, He finds a way to enable us. Yes, it's a challenge, but it's clear what God is doing, where He's leading and what He's enabling me to do," Twila says. "I have to be more intentional and disciplined about my songwriting now that I'm a mother. It's not as spontaneous as it used to be, but the fact that I've been able to approach writing in a different way 20-plus years on and the fact that there are opportunities to record and do things in a fresh way, and that people are still listening, it's like God is making a way—to quote Don Moen—and I believe He is doing just that."
"So as long as the Lord keeps opening these doors," she says, "I'll be faithful to walk through them."